The 5 Tell-Tale Signs That Your Child Is Struggling At School


So many parents feel detached from what’s going on at school; and helpless as a result. They don’t really know how things are going, and if they do, there’s often very little can do to influence matters.child-school-struggle

The trouble is: this stuff is important. Really important. What your child is doing NOW is likely to have a massive effect on their future. Do you know how well they’re doing right now?

So here are the 5 tell-tale signs that your child is struggling at school:

1.  Hates Reading Aloud

If your child hates reading aloud it could indicate that they lack confidence in themselves or their reading ability. It might be that they don’t understand what they’re reading, it could be that they’ve had a bad experience when it comes to reading at school. Whatever the reasoning, a reticence to read aloud can definitely point towards a struggle. Look at your child’s body language when she reads, I notice children fidgeting, rocking, rubbing their eyes, clearing their throat needlessly and even whispering rather than reading aloud.

2.  Guesses At Words

If they ARE reading aloud, but they guess at words, it could be that they’re struggling to decode the word and understand what they are reading. Children will see the first letter and guess what it might be, and generally make wild guesses if the book is too hard. In younger children, they don’t even look at the first letter of the word and will choose a word they are familiar with. This can be a big problem at school when the onus is often the child to learn by self-discovery. If you find your child guessing at words there’s a chance that they’re behind and struggling to read material for their age group.

3.  Getting Heated

If your normally placid child suddenly starts becoming more aggressive or heated, there’s a very good chance that something is wrong. It’s almost unheard of for a child to just become aggressive for no reason (particularly a child at primary school age), so generally when it happens, something is bothering them – it could well be their studies at school.

4.  Works Hard, But Gets Mediocre Marks

One of the clearest signs that your child is struggling is when they seem to put a lot of effort in, but still struggle to get a good return on that work. This could indicate that the way they’re being taught at school doesn’t suit them, or that they’re behind the average for their age group.

5.  Takes Ages To Finish Simple Homework Assignments

If your child is taking ages to finish a simple piece of homework – or the dreaded “learning log”, they may well be finding the work too hard or it might be that they are struggling to motivate themselves to complete the piece of work. Either way, there’s an issue there, so if you feel like the work should be completed much more quickly than it is getting done, it’s worth finding out why that’s the case.

Hopefully now you’re in a better position to work out whether your child is struggling at school. If you feel like they are, and you’d like a professional opinion to help you decide what to do, we’d love to talk – call us on 01582 402225 now.

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Kip McGrath Luton Summer School 2015


For most children, summer is a time to leave classes and homework behind. While summer is a holiday from school, it does not have to be a holiday from learning. The summer holiday is great for recharging your children’s batteries, because if they are not using the skills and knowledge that was learned in the classroom, they will find themselves lagging behind when school starts up again.Children can lose on average two month’s worth of knowledge over the summer if their brains are not actively engaged in educational activities.

Kip McGrath Luton can offer you the perfect solution to this problem.  Our summer school runs Monday to Friday throughout August.  Your child can attend one or more 2 hour teaching session per week and complete a small amount of homework.  After an initial assessment we can pin-point any areas of weakness that need to be targeted and put together a programme of work designed to focus on these areas and prepare them for the coming school year.  This small amount of effort can make a huge difference and mean that your child is ready to learn in the new school year instead of having to spend the first month relearning skills and wasting valuable time.

Who Comes To Kip McGrath Summer School?

 Children sitting the 11 plus exam
 Children who need to catchup in Maths and English
 Children who have learning difficulties such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism
 Children who lack confidence in their abilities
 Children who are not working at the level they are capable of

Monday 3rd August to Friday 28th August

10.00 am to 12.00

If your wish you child to attend our summer school please feel free to call us on 01582 402225 to arrange the initial assessment and discuss in detail your child’s individual needs.  Or fill in this contact form and we can arrange a convenient time to call you back.

Courses

English

All our English courses are taught by qualified English specialist teachers and focus on 2 main areas.

  1. Creative Writing   Creative writing is something many students find challenging! This module breaks down the elements needed to become more confident in relation to creative writing. Students are encouraged to plan, think about their audience and the tone and style of their writing in order to produce a piece with quality and depth. Special attention is given to detail and description, and the student is shown how to apply their knowledge to all types of writing.

  2. Reading and SPaG (Spelling, punctuation and Grammar)  This module helps children to understand the difference between nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and the finer points of using an apostrophe and speech marks. A whole range of grammatical activities will enable your child to understand how the English language works.  It will also focus on the student’s understanding of a range of texts at an appropriate level, and also to extend their vocabulary. They will be shown how to find the right answers by skimming and scanning, and also how to work out an answer if it is only implied in the text.

Maths

At Kip McGrath our aim is to put the fun back in the subject and build confidence in both mental maths and problem solving through clear and simple explanations.  The student drives the pace of the lesson so if more revision time is needed there is no pressure to ‘move on’ to the next topic.  Maths skills are consolidated by applying knowledge to problem solving questions.  We help develop these skills by teaching the student to read the question and extract the maths needed to answer the question effectively.

11 Plus

One of the changes in the 11+ is the timing of exams. These now take place in September rather than October as in the past. To help with maintaining learning and keep brain cells “fresh” during the summer holidays, we will be holding 11+ Intensive Courses. We recommend that your child attends at least 3 days a week during the summer school.

The course will widen the knowledge base of students so that they are equipped to answer the broad and challenging English, Maths and non-verbal questions. They will be taught examination strategies and how to think positively when faced with a question they find daunting. Students will write a mock exam extracted from the new specification.

Price List

Number of Days per Week

Price per day

Total

1

£30

£120

2

£29

£232

3

£28

£336

4

£27

£432

5

£26

£520

 FB-AD-504x504PX-BOOST-POST-SUMMER-SCHOOL-V3

5 Minute Verbal Reasoning Activities


A large part of the 11 plus verbal reasoning tests is vocabulary knowledge.  And most parents will be familiar with the Bond 11 plus practice books and thousands of online resources you can print out. However, children can get bored and frustrated with doing just these.

wordle

   wordle

So I have compiled a list of 5 minute activities that children can do to practice their verbal reasoning vocabulary.  Perfect for children struggling with concentration and to make it more interesting.  I regularly create games and short, sharp activities for the children to do at my centre and they don’t even realise that they are studying.  So have a go and see for yourself.  But if you haven’t got the time or struggle to explain things simply to your child, let us do the work for you.  Book your child for a free assessment and let us take care of things.

Children need to know the meanings of the words, their opposites, whether they are nouns, verbs or adjectives, and in some cases the multiple meanings of the words.

First of all you need to have a list of the most commonly used words.  You can get them from here.

Make these into flash cards and print them out on card.  You can get flashcard templates off the internet, but I like to use Quizlet to make flash cards.  It’s so simple.  All you do is cut and paste the words into the flash card set wizard and it generates them for you.

Take any set of 10 words and then try the following:

Alphabetical Order

Practicing using the alphabet is essential for verbal reasoning.  If a child knows that there are 3 letters between “m” and “p”, then it’s quicker than working it out.

Put the words into alphabetical order.

Put the words in reverse alphabetical order.

To make it more difficult, pick words beginning with the same letter and then put them in alphabetical order.

Write Synonyms

A synonym is another word with a similar meaning.  This may not be possible for all words.  When your child first does this, allow them to use a thesaurus (online is acceptable as well) and choose the synonym that they are most familiar with.  I taught a child once who was looking up synonyms for the word “rich”.  He chose the word “prosperous”, but a week later, he couldn’t tell me what the word “prosperous” meant.

Start of by choosing just one synonym, then build up to maximum 5 per word.  As your child gets familiar with the word list, get them to choose synonyms from the word list.  For example “oppose” and “contest” are synonyms and both are in the list.

Write Antonyms

Antonyms are opposites.  Again you can allow the use of a thesaurus and as with synonyms, make sure your child knows the meaning of the antonym they choose.  Start off with one antonyms and build up to a maximum 5.  Try to get your child to choose antonyms from the word list.

Write Sentences

Sentence writing helps children to understand the meaning of the word.  The sentence must make sense and use the word in he correct way.  This is especially so for words with multiple meanings.  For example the word “permit” has 2 meanings.  The child must write a sentence using both meanings.  the sentence must also illustrate the meaning of the word.  So writing “I got a permit” is not enough.  Writing “I got a permit to go and work in America” is better.

the verbal reasoning type 8 questions requires the child to find hidden words in a sentence.  Once your child has written the sentence, see if they find any hidden 4 letter words in it.

Make Smaller Words

For each word, make smaller words from the letters in the word.

Start with making as many 2 letter words as possible

Then build up to making bigger words.

Nouns, Verb or Adjective

Sort the words into either noun verb or adjective.  Some of the words may go into more than one category.  This is a great exercise for grammar skills.  With nouns, you can go further and categorise them into abstract, proper or common nouns.

Use Quizlet

Quizlet is a free website providing learning tools for students, including flashcards, study and game modes.

You start by creating your own study sets with terms and definitions.

Next, you can add images, copy and paste from another source, or use Quizlet’s built-in auto-define feature to speed up the creating process.

Track your progress with 6 powerful study and game modes!

Flashcards—Review your material, shuffle/randomize, or listen with audio.

Learn—Track your correct/incorrect answers and retest the ones you’ve missed.

SpellerType what you hear in this audio-powered study mode.

Test—Randomly generate tests based on your flashcard set.

Scatter—Race against the clock to drag and match terms/definitions.

Space Race—Type in the answer as terms/definitions scroll across the screen.

Compound Words

Compound words are words made up of two words joined together.  Here is a list of compound words and some suggested activities to try.  They come up in verbal reasoning type 11 questions.  

You can also take any group of 10 words from the word list, and try to break each one down into compound words.

My previous post called “4 Games to Help With Verbal Reasoning” can also be used to improve verbal reasoning skills.

Helping Your Child With Maths Word Problems


Maths word problems are a common area of concern for parents because they don’t know how to help their child.  Hopefully this article will give you some strategies to use so that problem solving is not a problem any more.

In my experience, there are 2 reasons why the child cannot do the maths word problem:

1.  The child does not understand the question.

If comprehension is weak, then the child will struggle to see what he needs to do.  A weak reader reads mechanically and approaches a sentence word by word, and misses out on the bigger picture.  They will often read the whole question and then give you a blank look, because they haven’t thought about what they are reading.

I use “DRAW” method to help children understand a question.  For example in the following question:

“There are 4 boys with 6 sweets each.  How many sweets altogether?”

Ask your child, what they could draw a picture of from the information in the question.  You might need to explain the meaning of the word “each” or the word “altogether”

maths word problem

Another strategy I use is called the “FLOW CHART” method.  This might be more suitable for older children, where they have to work out problems involving more than one step.  Change the sentence into a flow chart or diagram where each step is connected by an arrow.  For the following problem, you might need to teach your child how to half a number.  I have written a blog post on this topic.

“Damien had 6 stickers. His Mum gave him 10 more. He then gave half to his brother. How many did he have left?”

2 step word problem

The “TRANSLATE” strategy is also a useful way of getting children to understand the word problem.  Children need to understand the maths language used in questions.  At the simplest level they need to understand that the word “and” in a question means + in maths.  This blog I wrote on the topic may be useful.

The following example is a GCSE level question  and requires an understanding of the word “profit”.

“A shopkeeper sold 16 articles for a total of £400 and made a profit of £48.00. How much did each article cost him? “

2.  The child cannot do the maths required for the problem.

After ensuring that your child can understand what  to do, you then have to make sure they can do the working out.  For example in the question below,

“A shopkeeper sold 16 articles for a total of £400 and made a profit of £48.00. How much did each article cost him?”

the steps are as follows:

£400-£48 = £352

£352 divided by 16

If the child cannot do column subtraction or long division, she will struggle.

Problem solving questions usually involve the four basic operators in Maths.  At a higher level, they may involve knowledge of time/percentages/algebra and fractions.  If this is the weakness in your child, ensure that he or she gets to learn these skills first.

How To Revise 2 – Do Some Mock Exams


Right about now, students studying for their GCSE’s should be revising. One thing they should not leave until the last minute is going over past papers and sitting  mock exams to test their knowledge. Here is a blog I wrote a while back explaining the best way to do this.

Kip McGrath Luton Tutor's Blog

There are many aspects to creating good study habits, and the first of these I have already mentioned in a previous post which is to get organised.  Creating a timetable can save many precious hours as we come to exams.

Another component of revision is going through past papers.  In fact this should be included in your revision plan.  Giving yourself mock tests can highlight how you work under pressure and it will show you the gaps in your learning.  Going over your revision notes many times is a pointless exercise if you haven’t  tested your knowledge .

When you are ready to do a mock exam (at least three weeks before the exam), make sure that you do it under exam conditions and that you keep to the time limit.  You may have gone through exam papers in class already, so choose an exam that you know you have not…

View original post 565 more words

21 Ways To Revise GCSE Maths


  1. Start revising early in the year (about now) and learn the work you do in class.

  2. Get a copy of your syllabus and go through each bullet point.  Any topics you don’t understand should be highlighted.

  3. Write a list of all of the topics and cross them off the list once you’re sure you know them.

  4. When you revise topics make notes on the method and then do a few examples, then try some questions yourself on that topic.

  5. Do as many questions as possible, especially on subjects that you find difficult as practice is the only way.  You can get questions from:

    • Text books

    • Revision books (for example CGP books)

    • Homework sheets

    • Class tests

    • Past papers

  6. Online websites such as mymaths.co.uk or bbc bitesize.

  7. Practice loads! do loads of past papers and if you run out of past papers to do, do them again, especially the questions you didn’t do so well on.

  8. After revising a topic, go through past papers but only do the questions on that topic.  For example if you’ve just revised circle theorem, do past paper questions on circle theorem only. 

  9. Your textbook is full of explanations and worked examples you can follow, study and use to improve your understanding. It’s generally a good idea to find a topic you need help with, read through the explanation (looking up anything you don’t understand), before following along with the examples.

  10. After every exam paper, make a list of what you did poorly on and revise it.

  11. Revise with a friend or work in a small group. 

    • You can explain maths to your friends.

    • Your friends can explain things to you.

    • You can work together on problems.

    • You can test each other.

    • friend
  12. One of the most effective ways to learn a new skill is to write down the steps you have to take – either as a list or as a flowchart. 

  13. Make flash cards, but double sided ones, the reverse side having questions on it or page numbers from your text book where you can find these questions.  You could have a set for each of the following:

    • FORMULAS.  The formulas you need to memorise for the exam

    • METHODS.  How to work out a problem, for example the method for working out Pythagoras.

    • DEFINITIONS.  Write down the meanings of maths words you need to know.

    • NEED TO KNOW.  In maths there are quantities and number you must know off by heart.  Such as grams in a kilogram or square numbers.  One side has the question, the other side has the answer.

    • flash cards
  14. Make a cheat sheet.  This is one sheet of A4 paper with a summary of everything you need to know.

  15. Go online and revise topics by watching videos or practicing questions online.

  16. Create mind maps.  There should be a word/question or something in the middle of the page, with questions, facts or methods coming out.

  17. Create posters.  Make them colourful and big so that they catch your eye.  Display these posters on your walls so that you see them all the time.

  18. Use highlighters and shade/colour in important facts from text books and workbooks.highlighter

  19. If you have a really good set of notes or still have your maths workbooks from school, then you can write questions in the margins to jog your memory as you read.

  20. Use sticky notes to write down formulas and facts, they are quick and easy to do, as you learn each fact, just throw the sticky note away.sticky notes

  21. LOOK at a worked example of a question.  COVER it.  WRITE it yourself and work it out from memory.  CHECK to see if you’ve done it right.  If you’ve missed something out or done it wrong, TRY AGAIN.

If after all this you are still not getting anywhere,  let us do the work for you.  Book  a free assessment and let us take care of things.

How To Prepare For the 2013 Year 6 SATs


Major changes have been made to the 2013 SATs exams for Key Stage 2 pupils in the UK.  This year is the first time that children will be doing the spelling, grammar and punctuation exam, and the first year in which there will be no writing paper.  Here are some basic facts you need to know:

1.  In all state primary schools in the UK, SATs exams are held in May.

2.  Children in year 6, will be assessed in Maths and English (spelling, grammar, punctuation and reading) externally.  Levels 3-5 of the national curriculum will be tested.  There is an additional level 6 paper for children working above level 5.

3.  English writing will be assessed by your child’s class teacher throughout year 6 based on the work your child completes in class.

4.  English speaking and listening will be assessed by your child’s class teacher.

5.  There are 3 Maths tests, mental maths, non-calculator paper A and calculator paper B.

The results are usually out in July and are often shared with parents in end of year reports.  SATs exam results are used by schools to measure performance and the average year 6 child is expected to get a level 4b in Maths and English.  The teacher assessments are passed onto high schools for them to put children into ability groups in year 7.

What are the implications of these changes when it comes to preparing your child for the exams?

How can you help your child to prepare for the exams?

Where do you start?

As a teacher and a parent, I would start by finding out what level my child is working at.  You can speak to your child’s class teacher about this.  I should warn you that some teachers may come up with comments like “your child is working at a level 4c”.  Unless you are a teacher or are familiar with the grading system used in schools, this doesn’t really tell you much.  Try to get more specific feedback which you can work on. For example, if you want to help your child with maths, then ask the teacher which topics you should be revising to improve the grade. If you can get the teacher to put this in an email to you or to  just jot down a few bullet points, then it’s easier to refer back to it to see if you are covering the right topics.  There’s no point in guessing what your child should be doing because if the works too easy then your child isn’t learning anything and if it’s too hard then you’ll end up getting frustrated and losing patience.  The key is to cover topics at the right level for your child.

Once you have determined what level of work you should be doing, then it’s time to practise the skills needed to improve.  Doing 20 minutes three times a week is better than doing an hour on one day.  As with revision, repetition is important and you should go over the same topic many times.  Sometimes your child will understand straight away, whereas at other times it may take weeks to conquer a subject.  I remember teaching a child about equivalent fractions, and thinking that the child would never understand.  He would turn up to lessons having forgotten what I had taught him the previous week.  It was frustrating but we persevered, and eventually, it clicked!

English skills need drilling as well.  What I mean by drilling is practising.  With the introduction of the new spelling, punctuation and grammar exams, this is now even more essential.  The skills needed to improve in these areas need to be registered in a child’s long-term memory.  I’ve seen many children who get 10 out of 10 in their weekly spelling tests, but spell incorrectly when using those same words in a sentence.  One of the reasons is that the spellings have been crammed and learnt for the test, registered in the short-term memory and then forgotten.  Long term memory can be improved by repeated exposure.  So to help a child remember a spelling, I would get him/her to learn them, use the words in sentences, use the words in stories, put the words in alphabetical order, think of rhyming words, draw pictures to illustrate the words or write out the words in different colours.

Punctuation and grammar have to be learnt in such a way that they become a habit.  It should be learnt so that the child doesn’t have to be reminded to use capital letters and full stops and if they do forget, then there’s a niggling thought in the back of their mind that something is missing from the sentence.

I’ll leave you with links to sample papers and mark schemes for the new style SATs tests introduced for 2013.

Level 3-5 Paper 1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test Sample

Level 3-5 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test Paper 2 Spelling Script

Level 3-5 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test – Spelling Answer Booklet

Level 3-5 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test – Mark Scheme

Level 6 Paper 1 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test Sample

Level 6 Paper 2, Short Answer Questions

Level 6, Paper 3, Spelling Script

Level 6, Paper 3, Spelling Answer Booklet

Level 6, Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Mark Scheme

The exams are just 5 months away, is your child ready?  Do you think you can help?  If not, then we are just a phone call away.

But if you haven’t got the time or struggle to explain things simply to your child, let us do the work for you.  Book your child for a free assessment and let us take care of things.